From the June 1998 issue of Startups

Busy entrepreneurs agree: Administrative tasks take a big bite out of tight management schedules. Small Business Administration: How Small Businesses Maximize Productive Time, a 1997 national survey conducted by Comprehensive Business Services (CBS), revealed that 81 percent of small-business owners rank administrative functions among their most time-consuming tasks.

"Small-business owners need to do a lot of different things to be successful," says Charles White at Mission Viejo, California-based CBS. Compounding the challenge, unavoidable duties such as accounting generate no revenue--while gobbling up as much as 15 hours per week for the average small-business owner.

Where can you find relief? An increasingly popular solution is outsourcing. Eighty-two percent of the business owners surveyed outsource accounting and payroll operations--a smart move, according to the numbers: Sixty-eight percent of those who outsource financial functions report saving up to 10 hours per week. "As entrepreneurs prioritize their activities," says White, "outsourcing is an obvious avenue to becoming more efficient."

New Wave

You could say Marko Babic, 31, has surfed his way to success. As a longtime surfer, "I knew the benefits of neoprene and always dreamed of creating a product out of it," says the Santa Monica, California, entrepreneur of the porous fabric used to make wet suits.

The idea for Cellsuits--a line of sporty cellular phone covers--came naturally when Babic found nothing but bulky, boring cellular phone covers when he shopped for one for himself. Curious whether there was a market for his colorful, wet suit-inspired designs, Babic attended a consumer electronics trade show in early 1996 and learned that accessories were becoming an important part of the wireless communications business. He took his ideas to the drawing board, and soon the Flipper (for flip-top phones), the Banana Peel (which peels back to reveal the keypad) and the Joey (a universal pouch) designs were born.

Reaching $1 million plus in sales in its first six months, Babic's company, GoNeo LLC, quickly garnered a worldwide licensing agreement with ocean-activewear giant Body Glove. Babic and his partners, Sebastian Grande, 27, and Jeff Galant, 31, have seen no letup since they left their full-time jobs in late 1996. Says Babic, "The business didn't really [take off] until we quit our jobs and went for it 100 percent." Spoken like a true surfer.

Glowing Report

Candles aren't just for dinner parties or power outages anymore. Marketed in an increasing variety of creative and funky shapes, sizes and scents, candles are revamping our homes, offices and even our sense of well-being.

The latest scented candles sport such captivating names as Zest for Life and Peaceful Nights, and inviting shapes, such as seashells, chocolate candies and the lifelike fruits and vegetables in ACG Green's Candlez line (at left). Sales of candle accessories are red-hot, too, with elaborately formed holders shaped like everything from musical notes to bird cages.

And as other consumer trends go, so go candles, says William Llanes, regional sales manager for ACG Green in Santa Fe Springs, California: "Our coffee candle is really hot right now," appealing to men in particular. Next on ACG's agenda: Wake up and smell its teacup candles, scented with chamomile tea and apple cinnamon.

Is it all about control, with consumers seeking to influence the very air around them? Or perhaps candles' popularity is part of the pre-millennium trend toward the ethereal. Whatever the explanation, retailers and wholesalers don't expect this flame to burn out anytime soon.

Good Connections

For new business owners, networking isn't an option; it's a necessity. Whether pursued as a way to contribute to your bottom line or to explore been-there, done-that solutions from others in your industry, networking is one of the smartest moves you can make. How to make it pay off--painlessly? Networking strategists Anne Baber and Lynne Waymon show you in Smart Networking: How to Turn Contacts Into Cash, Clients, & Career Success (Kendall/Hunt Publishing, $18, 800-352-2939). The authors credit insights drawn from participants in their interactive networking workshops for this practical tutorial.

Defining networking as "small talk with a target," Baber and Waymon go beyond the traditional be-a-good-listener advice. Proffering a "new mind-set about business contacts," Smart Networking places people skills at a premium.

In an examination of "the art of rainmaking," you'll learn to assess your customer base and identify potential clients. You'll also learn to track, measure and stay in touch with leads.

Start It Up

Thanks to the excellent reader response to our April article "Shoestring Start-Ups," we wanted to offer some additional resources to help you launch the businesses mentioned. For information on:

  • Image Consulting: Association of Image Consultants International, 1000 Connecticut Ave. N.W., #9, Washington, DC 20036, (800) 383-8831
  • Inventory Counting Service: APICS, Education Society for Resource Management, 500 W. Annanbale Rd., Falls Church, VA 22046, (800) 444-2742
  • In-Store Demonstration: Field Marketing Services Association, 8566 Laureldale Dr., Laurel, MD 20724, (800) 338-6232
  • Medical Transcription: American Association for Medical Transcription, P.O. Box 576187, Modesto, CA 95357-6187, (209) 551-0883, http://www.aamt.org/aamt
  • Tax-Form Preparation: California Society of Enrolled Agents, 3200 Ramos Cir., Sacramento, CA 95827, (800) TAX-PROS

Food For Thought

News, facts and figures to spark ideas for new and better businesses.

  • Hear them roar: Wondering where to aim your advertising dollar? The buying power of women continues to surge: Recent estimates from the International Mass Retailing Institute Convention place 35 per-cent of women ahead of their husbands in annual earnings.
  • Food stuff: We can put a man on the moon, but can we make it easier to eat right? While 79 percent of Americans acknowledge the connection between nutrition and health, only 39 per-cent actively pursue healthy diets, according to the American Dietetic Association's 1997 Nutrition Trends Survey--down from 44 percent in 1991.
  • Mrs. Mom: Is it back to the future (or just a conservative backlash)? Although his conclusions are controversial, economist Richard Hokenson contends more mothers are heading home, at least until their kids grow up.

Two-income marriages still outnumber single-earner families two to one, but in many up-scale neighborhoods, the number of women choosing the mommy van over the briefcase could make this a market worth investigating.

Contact Sources

ACG Green, (800) 888-6861, ext. 103

Comprehensive Business Services, (800) 323-9000, http://www.comprehensive.org

GoNeo LLC, (310) 458-3854, http://www.goneo.com